Women's Swimming & Diving Season Preview
BATON ROUGE -- The LSU Swimming and Diving Team will be competing in the team's annual Purple and Gold Intrasquad meet today at 3 p.m. at the LSU Natatorium.
Fans are encouraged to attend the meet. All admission to LSU Swimming and Diving home meets is free of charge.
The LSU women's program finished in the top-five at the SEC Championships for the second consecutive season. The team returns six of seven NCAA Qualifiers from a year ago and welcomes 10 new freshmen to the program.
The returnees are highlighted by NCAA Honorable-Mention All-American sophomore diver Alex Bettridge and NCAA Qualifiers senior Sara Haley, juniors Torrey Bussey and Rainey White and sophomores Amber Carter and Marlene Niemi.
Haley repeated as one of the top butterfly competitors in the conference. The El Dorado Hills, Calif. Native broke the school record in the 200 fly (1:56.67) when she registered her second consecutive bronze medal performance at the SEC Championships in the 200 fly. She also qualified for the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive season.
"I think the one thing that has been missing from her career is stepping up and performing at the NCAA level," Geyer said. "That is a goal for her and for us as a program as well. It is just going to take a whole different line of commitment and structure for her to stay on a path this year to make that happen. There really can't be any down days in our training for her to perform at that level. She needs to repeat the effort from SEC's to NCAA's".
Jana Ruimerman, who earned NCAA Honorable-Mention All-American status her sophomore year for her performances on the 10th place 200 medley relay, will look to qualify for NCAA's her senior year after narrowly missing qualifying her junior year. Ruimerman swam in a pair of consolation finals in the 100 backstroke and 200 backstroke at the SEC Championships.
"Jana has a situation where she tends to fall ill right before our conference meet and NCAA's," Geyer said. "She had a great summer, qualified for Olympic Trials and swam faster at Olympic Trials. That was an oddity at that meet. She has the base to carry on in her final year."
Sally Wood made a huge leap her junior season in the individual medley events and the 200 breaststroke. She cranked out the program's fourth fastest all-time 400 IM (4:14.29), fifth fastest 200 IM (1:59.51) and eighth fastest 200 breast (2:16.66) at the SEC Championships.
"Sally fought through a lot of injuries last year and ironically enough she still performed really well," Geyer said. "Our training room has been great over the summer to get her back to where she needs to be physically. We are looking for some great things from her. She has goals of school records and potentially both the 200 IM and 400 IM records."
Audrey Lawson pairs with Haley to form one of the conference's top 200 fly duos. Lawson qualified for the championship final of the 200 fly and registered a career low and fifth best program time of 1:59.42 in a seventh place finish at the SEC Championships
"She wants to qualify for NCAA's this year," Geyer said. "She gained some solid experience at the SEC meet by qualifying for the 200 fly. I don't think that her performance in the finals was indicative of what she is capable of doing. We are working through the mental stuff to compete at the highest levels in all events. She has set her goals high."
Kaelee Mader put together her best collegiate season last year and swam to 14th in the 200 fly at the SEC Championships. She also competed in the individual medley events and set career lows in both events.
"It has been fun to watch her progress over the past three years," Geyer said. "We are looking forward to her developing in the individual medleys and are going to spend more time focusing on the 200 fly this year as well. We started to see a bit of light from that at the SEC meet last year. The change in meet structure sets up her days events to perform three really hard events spread out over four days. She is developing and looking to step up and finish things out on top."
Chelsea Griffiths rounds out the senior swimming class. She qualified for the SEC Championships and swam the 100 and 200 back.
On the diving side, Elle Schmidt serves as the Tiger's lone upperclassman diver. Schmidt set her career bests on the platform and the three-meter last season and qualified for NCAA Zone Regionals.
"Elle has now been in the program for four years," Shaffer said. "We have more support with a graduate assistant and the highest coach-athlete ratio than we have ever had. It allows us to give additional detail to each of the divers. Elle's diving really comes down to what she wants to do. I believe that you are what you think. If she believes in herself, she has the opportunity to have her most successful season at LSU."
Bussey, LSU's record-holder in the 200 breast and 200 IM, repeated as an NCAA Qualifier and swam in three final events at the SEC Championships. At SEC's, she captured eight place in the 200 IM with a season low 1:58.53 and emerged victorious in the 100 breast (1:01.00) consolation final with the second fastest mark in program history.
"Torrey had a pretty tumultuous summer. She had a great summer training wise, but when we got back from Olympic Trials we had a situation where she had to have surgery," Geyer said. "When I sat down with her in a goal meeting, I told her to set her standards low. For every progression that we have made and every step we take, we have to look at is as exciting. Already a month into the training season and I am already amazed how fast we have progressed through things. As far as her progression over the last month, we are obviously way ahead of where I thought she would be."
Rainey White emerged as one of the team's top sprint freestylers and a valuable component on relays. She competed on the team's 200 free relay at the NCAA Championships. She finished 10th in the 100 fly (54.08) at the SEC Championships as well.
"She is like an assassin. That is the best way to put it," Geyer said. "She is quiet, comes in, does her business and goes to work. She definitely has some pop. She had a good summer. She has made some improvements to where she is at. The want to be better than last year is certainly there."
Parker Glass swam the 500 free, 100 back and 200 back for LSU at the SEC Championships. She owned the team's fastest 500 free for the season and also showed some growth in the 1000 free.
"I look at her some days and tell her that she should be an SEC scorer," Geyer said. "Then there is a day or two when you don't see that. We have talked about that precisely. She had a pretty solid summer and made some strength gains on the land. We are looking forward to moving on with her developmental process."
"For those group of girls, they have been to the SEC meet and know the level of competition that it takes to be there," Geyer said. "Having a deep squad will make things more competitive for the conference meet and SEC travel. I think when you have that environment in a training area it is going to make a lot of women push themselves harder to be a part of that. You want that competition daily in workouts and training moving forward."
Alex Bettridge, the SEC's Freshman Diver of the Year, will look to continue her prowess within the conference and further her status nationally. Bettridge showed her versatility on all boards when set the program's three-meter dive record (366.85) with a bronze medal performance at the SEC Championships, placed 15th on the three-meter with a score of 306.30 at the NCAA Championships and dove to sixth in the one-meter with a total of 302.60 at SEC's.
"Alex's goals are bigger and better. She wants to final in at least two events at the SEC Championship and win an event," Shaffer said. "She wants to qualify and final for the NCAA's. Her goals are a progression. She is still developing on platform. It could be a toss-up on whether she will score higher on the one-meter or the three-meter springboard. She is such a fierce competitor that she knows when and how to raise her game at the flick of a switch."
Amber Carter shined in her freshman campaign in the fly and freeevents. She Competed in the 50 free, 100 fly, 200 free relay and the 200 medley relay at NCAA's. At SEC's, she raced to a 13th place finish in the 50 free (22.95) after posting the program's sixth fastest mark in the prelims (22.86) at the SEC Championships and notched a 15th place finish in the 100 fly (54.00), which was the eighth fastest in the program's history.
"I sensed that Amber had huge potential and it came true her freshman year," Geyer said. "She had some phenomenal swims. I think she exceeded a lot of people's expectations. Going into her sophomore year, those expectations are now on her shoulders a little bit. She needs to see how she can handle that."
Marlene Niemi also qualified for the NCAA Championships and excelled in the sprint events and 100 breast. The Finnish native earned SEC All-Freshman Honors after being the only freshman to qualify for the championship final of the 50 free with the program's fifth fastest time of 22.66 at the SEC. At NCAA's, she swam in the 200 free relay, the 50 free and the 200 medley relay.
"We knew that she had the potential and we started to see that a little bit later in the season," Geyer said. "She showed up at the conference meet, swam great and did extremely well with things. It was good to see that come forward."
Kaetlin Sepp utilized her talent to develop into one of the program's top back and free swimmers. The Estonian finished 14th in the 200 back with the program's fifth best mark (1:58.62) at the SEC Championships.
"We had high expectations for her in the backstroke and we fell a little bit short," Geyer said. "Physically she is a strong woman and can train well. She needs to become a more mentally focused competitor. If she does that I think there is a bright future for her in the backstroke events."
Jennifer Reese earned a spot on the team last season with her hard work and has come back to campus looking to qualify for the SEC Championships.
"Sometimes you offer a spot for individuals to walk onto the program and they don't really foresee the expectations ahead of them," Geyer said. "She used the year to really grow and understand what it takes to compete at the SEC level. She went home this summer and really remolded herself into a new person. She is coming in at a whole new fitness level than she did freshman year. It is exciting to see her at this level for the first time."
The women's freshmen class is littered with versatile talent in the diving and swimming ranks. Cassie Weil, the top ranked woman diver of the recruiting class, owns a ton of experience on the national level.
"Cassie has been a Junior National Champion, a Senior National qualifier and a finalist and a US Olympic Trials participant on the three-meter and platform events," Shaffer said. "She has a wealth of experience. We have been diving for about two weeks and if what we have seen is any indication of her work ethic, she will be really successful. She wants to final at SEC's and qualify and score at NCAA's in her first year."
Allie Alter joins her after owning a proven track record on the Junior National level.
"Allie has been a tremendous trainer," Shaffer said. "She has been a Junior National finalist, an AAU Champion and has been involved with the US Diving Circuit for years. Her strength is platform. Her weakness is the lower she goes. She has the capability to go to the conference championship and do well her first year on platform. She can score on springboard as well."
Izzy Choquehuanca, who also competed on the Junior National level, rounds out the diving class.
The swimming class welcomes seven new swimmers who will be counted on to score points this season. Megan Cox, Jesse James and Danielle Stirrat have the ability to make an impact individually and on relays.
"When you look at those three girls a little bit, you have three swimmers who will compete for a spot in the 800 freestyle relay or all three of them could be on it," Geyer said. "Megan and Jesse both have some individual medley experience. Megan is more of a middle distance freestyler. Jesse is a bit more of a distance freestyler. They both come down for the 200 and 400 IM. Throwing in Danielle as well as training partners moving forward is great. Danielle had a phenomenal summer. She swam ok at the British Trials, but she came back at a senior championship meet in Great Britain and really swam great."
Taryn MacKenzie is another talented international swimmer to keep an eye out for.
"She comes from South Africa and is roommates with Danielle," Geyer said. "It is good to have that international connection there. They both have high goals of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. It is a discussion that I had with them. Those actions do not start in 2015 or 2016. Those actions started yesterday or two weeks ago. They get that and understand that, which is good. They have long term goals and their heads are focused on their goals."
"Caley is going to fly under the radar a little bit because she came from a high school only type setting in Minnesota," Geyer said. "I think there is great deal of potential ahead of her now that training is a lot more structured, disciplined and serious. I look for some quick development from her. Stacey has had some ups and downs the past two years. She had a great high school state meet a year ago. Now she is getting back on track and will use this freshman year as an experience. Rebecca is a walk-on for the program and for her it is about understanding what this level is about."